Posts Tagged ‘W. Bede Mitchell’

Elena Danielson: The scintillating world of an archivist, and “a masterpiece”

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

She's more bubbly than this picture suggests

In April, I commented on Stanford’s “A Company of Authors” event, “a warm and friendly gathering of about 100 or so booklovers at the Stanford Humanities Center,” in which Humble Moi participated:

Particularly memorable: Elena Danielson‘s breathy presentation of the ethical issues of archiving.  Don’t think that sounds exciting?  You have to hear Elena tell about it.  The author of The Ethical Archivist has been privy to billets-doux of the long-dead and recently dead, and all the burning secrets held in donated letters and memorabilia.

Archivists aren’t usually considered to live scintillating lives, but Elena sure makes it look like hot stuff.  I recounted her vivid tale of the Martin Luther King, Jr., legacy here.  (She also wrote a guest review for Debra Satz‘s  Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale, and is a regular commentor on the Book Haven.)

So we were pleased to see praise for her work in College & Research Libraries, in a review by W. Bede Mitchell:

“The reader cannot help but come away … impressed with how deeply entangled is the archival profession in ethical dilemmas. …

She [Elena, that is – ED] is invariably thorough, sensible, and sensitive when analyzing ethical challenges that can arise when acquiring or deaccessioning materials, providing equitable access, protecting the privacy of patrons and donors, authenticating materials, and determining the circumstances in which displaced archives should be relocated. In addition, her writing is clear, engaging, and imbued with a devotion to her professional values. No doubt her many years of experience have tempered idealism with realism, but not to the point of cynicism. When she convincingly demonstrates at many junctures that establishing ‘a standard of integrity that inspires confidence in the documentary record’ is neither easy nor safe, Danielson goes on to argue eloquently why ensuring such integrity is what the archivist profession should be about. …

It is difficult to imagine a better written or more thorough and thoughtful work on such thorny issues. ‘Masterpiece’ is an appropriate description.”

Fine words … but it’s all so stuffy compared to the real-life Elena, her eyes sparkling, confessing the secrets she’s collected over decades with barely contained excitement.  Or, more recently, telling me that nine months after the book launch, only 73 copies of the book are left.  Is there a second printing in the works?

Brava, Elena!